Friday, April 29, 2011

Hailey man hangs himself in jail cell

Death is second by suicide at new public safety facility

Express Staff Writer

Matthew Wayne Cherry

A 35-year-old Hailey man died Wednesday at a Boise hospital after hanging himself with a sheet Monday afternoon at the Blaine County Public Safety Facility in Hailey.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as Matthew Wayne Cherry, who was being held on a felony attempted strangulation charge following his arrest Saturday morning by Hailey police.

The death was the second suicide by hanging at the facility, which houses the county jail, since it opened in 2008.

The Sheriff's Office issued a brief press release Wednesday evening, more than two days after the hanging occurred. The press release did not address whether Cherry was being held in isolation, whether he was in an area where there was video surveillance or how long he was hanging before he was discovered.

Additional information was not available by press deadline Thursday because telephone calls were not returned to the Idaho Mountain Express by either Sheriff Gene Ramsey or Jail Administrator Lt. Jay Davis.

Blaine County court records concerning Cherry state that he was "found after 15 minutes of attempted hanging."

Wood River Fire & Rescue reported that Cherry had no heartbeat and was not breathing when paramedics arrived. Fire Chief Bart Lassman said an ambulance crew was able to reestablish a heartbeat before Cherry was transported by ambulance first to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and later by fixed-wing aircraft to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.

The hanging occurred about two hours after Cherry's initial court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Monday in Blaine County Magistrate Court on a felony charge of attempted strangulation and a misdemeanor count of domestic violence. The crimes were allegedly committed against Cherry's wife early Saturday morning at the couple's home on Beaver Brook Drive in southeast Hailey.

The press release states that "during a routine check by a deputy, Cherry was observed sitting on the bunk in the cell with the door pulled closed. Shortly after being observed by the deputy, an inmate reported that Cherry was attempting suicide in the cell."

The press release puts the time at "approximately" 3:30 p.m. Monday

"Deputies responded and found Cherry hanging from a bed sheet attached to the bunk," the press release states. "Deputies began life saving efforts; emergency medical personnel arrived and continued. Cherry was revived and transported."

The press release states that the incident is still under investigation but does not state who is conducting the investigation.

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Lassman said Wood River Fire & Rescue was called to the jail at 3:42 p.m. Monday.

"He was in cardiac arrest when we got there," Lassman said.

He said the ambulance crew restored a heartbeat by administering an electrical shock to Cherry's heart with a defibrillator.

Court records indicate that Cherry was essentially brain dead when examined at Saint Alphonsus.

On Tuesday, Magistrate Court Judge R. Ted Israel dismissed an order forbidding Cherry to contact his wife and issued a separate order to free him on his own recognizance rather than on bail. Both orders were requested in motions filed by the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's office

Dismissal of the no-contact order allowed Cherry's wife to be with him at the hospital and to make decisions regarding his medical care. Allowing Cherry to be free on his own recognizance meant that he could be kept at the hospital without restraints and without the presence of a Blaine County deputy.

Cherry's arrest

Hailey police arrested Cherry shortly after 2 a.m. Saturday for allegedly battering and attempting to strangle his wife. A probable-cause affidavit filed by Hailey Patrolman Kenneth McClure states that Cherry was arrested at gunpoint because he initially refused to cooperate with police and "became verbally aggressive."

McClure wrote that Cherry and his wife were arguing about Cherry's alcohol use when the confrontation became physical.

According to court records, Cherry reported at his initial appearance that he was a construction contractor working part-time at a Hailey pizza establishment because he had no construction work.

Earlier Suicide

The first suicide at the new public safety facility occurred on Oct. 17, 2009, when Cody John Finch, a 23-year-old Fairfield man, hanged himself with a bed sheet suspended from a heating vent in the toilet area of an isolation cell. The Sheriff's Office reported then that Finch had been segregated from other prisoners because he was starting fights with other inmates.

Davis said then that the hanging occurred in a video surveillance "blind spot" because law prohibits jail authorities from filming inmates using the toilet.

Finch was awaiting transport to the Idaho state penitentiary following a Camas County burglary conviction.

An investigation was conducted into the Finch death but findings have not been released publicly.

Terry Smith:

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